GRANITE CITY — Even though they have two home games remaining, the Granite City Warriors decided to celebrate their senior night in Friday’s home game against the Edwardsville Tigers.
“We wanted to have it on a Friday night,” Granite City coach Steve Roustio said. “We wanted to make sure that it’s on the weekend where we can get a decent crowd.”
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they didn’t celebrate a victory on senior night.
Edwardsville stormed to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter en route to a 54-47 win in front of a packed crowd at Memorial Gymnasium.
“We played hard, but we came up short,” Granite City senior Ron Allen said. “Everyone’s disappointed. It’s senior night. Everyone has to be disappointed with a loss on senior night.”
The Tigers are inching closer to a Southwestern Conference championship. They improved to 18-4 overall and 10-0 in league play with four games remaining.
Edwardsville also completed the season series sweep over the Warriors. The Tigers beat Granite City 69-53 in the last meeting on Dec. 18.
“I thought our guys did a lot of things well tonight,” Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. “I thought we executed some things well against a lot of different defenses. I thought Oliver Stephen had a great game defensively and getting us open. He did a great job of getting us open in different occasions.”
Granite City dropped to 12-11 overall and 5-5 in conference play. The Warriors had their four-game winning streak snapped.
“I’m proud of my kids and we can build off of this,” Roustio said. “I know it’s a loss, but it’s not a devastating thing. Yes, it goes into the loss column, but it’s something that we can bring to practice. We’ll be able to practice hard for a couple of days to get ready for O’Fallon after playing like that. There’s nothing to hang your head about as far as that performance. Those kids played their hearts out.”
The Warriors will play O’Fallon at home on Tuesday. They’ll wrap up their home season on Feb. 23 against East St. Louis.
Granite City also has road games against Belleville East (Feb. 19) and Belleville West (Feb. 26) left on its regular season schedule.
“We definitely can turn things around with hard practices and everything,” said Allen, whose team has already surpassed last year’s win total of 11. “Everyone is getting better throughout the season.”
Senior Kenny Berry finished with 31 points, making it the third time this season he scored 30 or more points. He was the only Granite City player in double figures.
“When you score 31 points against a team that’s 18-4 and hasn’t lost a conference game, that’s saying a lot,” Roustio said.
Edwardsville had four players in double figures. Sophomore Caleb Strohmeier had 14 points, senior Chrys Colley and junior A.J. Epenesa each scored 13 and Mark Smith finished with 12. Epenesa had two technical fouls and will have to sit in the Tigers’ game against Collinsville on Tuesday.
“Edwardsville has so many weapons and their margin of error is huge,” Roustio said. “If they make a mistake, they have so many kids who could get things done and kind of plug up the holes for people who are not scoring.”
Edwardsville led 19-11 after the first quarter and 28-22 at halftime. The Tigers led by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter. The Warriors got within one point twice in the first half, but that’s as close as they got.
Berry and Ron and Tra’ Allen were recognized before Friday’s game. All of them have played with the Granite City basketball program all four years.
“I was so pumped,” Ron Allen said. “I felt the hype right there. I was in the moment.”
Ron Allen celebrated his second senior night in a span of four months. On Oct. 23, Allen and nine other seniors were honored before the Granite City football team’s regular season finale against Edwardsville at home.
Allen said he enjoyed celebrating his senior night with his mother Tracy and father Ronald.
“It’s great,” he said. “They’re our No. 1 fans. I love them and they support us.”